The Italian coastguard arrested 18 people on Wednesday for illegal fishing of date mussels, a protected species. They used hammers to get them out of the rocks near the seaside spot of Sorrento.
Police said that the arrested were part of a criminal organisation that had been destroying a stretch of protected coastline south of Naples. The arrests followed a three-year investigation into the group.
Since 1998, fishing for date mussels has been illegal in Italy because they are an endangered species and the invasive methods used to get them out of the rocks destroy the marine ecosystem.
The valuable shellfish are longer than common mussels and have a browner shell.
The people arrested are accused of numerous crimes, including illegal fishing, destroying the marine habitat and selling unsafe foods, said a statement from the prosecutors’ office of Torre Annunziata, which led the investigation.
Less than three months ago, on the nearby island of Capri, police broke up two other organisations for date mussel fishing.
A police video showed the holes in the three “Faraglioni” rock formations, a symbol of Capri, caused by the drills and hammers the fishermen had used to extract the date mussels.
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